While I was there I took lots of pictures of them as they were chit chatting with one another. Even my sister was there, but she was oblivious to me being there, engrossed with conversations with our relatives. That's the deaf world, ain't it? Happens often in many surroundings with hearing people around. In the back of my head, I had wished I had a deaf companion with me or even a group of deaf people, for me to communicate with. But I survived as I stayed positive for most of the days except for one instance which I experienced as some of you may have something similar to mine.
This one instance happened one morning, as we were eating breakfast in a breakfast room (we were in a condo style hotel). As I sat next to my sister who was talking to our 2nd cousin (m) ...I didn't ask what they were talking about....I just ate my bagel, tried to lipread and of course I couldn't follow one word (talked fast and small lip movements)....after about ten minutes, my 2nd cousin (m) got up to get more coffee and sat back down, he was talking to her...10 seconds later, they bursted out laughing....I looked at my sister and asked, "what's so funny?" She looked at me, made a depressing scowling face, and exclaimed, "OH GOD, that was TEN minutes ago!!" The food that went down my throat came back up, I was shocked...and felt insulted, almost choked on my food, tried to swallow it, said to her, "Oh, never mind....that's ok...". I got up, took a cup of coffee with me and went outside, to a bench around the building.
As I was trying to drink my coffee, sip by sip, to get the food down. Tears began to fill up my eyes and started falling, slowly, down my cheeks. I just couldn't believe what had transpired. Oh before I left the room, when I got up, my 1st cousin (f), heard my sister and went over to her, and went "ohhhh" to my sister, as my sister started to cry, my cousin (f) put her arms around her. I do not know what my sister said to any of them, (there were about 7-8 of our relatives in the room). I felt kinda embarrassed and angry that they would feel sympathy for my sister. No one came to me, not one! Of course, they couldn't understand what I was feeling as they probably didn't know how to deal with me, a deaf woman.
As I was a bit more calm, around ten minutes later, my sister came out, kinda like a shuffling walk, to where I was sitting, she said, "I'm sorry....I'm sorry....I didn't feel good....I took xanax last nite because I couldn't sleep and it's making me feel funny....I couldn't even remember my own name..." I looked at her, tears started to fill up my eyes again and I replied to her, "I wanted to share how I feel...I felt insulted what you said 'Oh God...that was ten min ago', when it was only 10 seconds before, not 10 minutes....I just wanted to know what was funny..." She said she's sorry about this. We let it go at that point...we sat opposite on the benches, saying nothing til other relatives came by and we left for downtown in Carmel. I could feel some of my relatives' eyes were on me, to see if I'm "altogether" or whatever they were thinking. I chose to ignore this feeling and just smiled...as it wasn't worth it to dwell on this...let it go.
A few days later, as my cousin (f) and I were back in Oregon, from California. Somehow, we were talking about the deaf culture. Then I told her that many hearing people like her do not truly understand what we go through...she said she did, I told her, "No you don't....you felt bad for my sister...it was insulting what she told me..." as I repeated this incident. Then I told her, "I didn't complain when everyone was talking among themselves in our living room....it was as if I was invisible to everyone around, so I kept myself busy with taking pictures and cleaning up the kitchen....and then, very simply, that morning, I asked my sister what was funny....just 10 seconds before, not 10 min."
Suddenly, she bursted into tears, apologized for crying, said she was sorry, choking back her tears then said she didn't realize what I was going through and that made her think of her relationship with her husband, who has since passed away of cancer. She remembered how she felt left out when she tried to communicate with her husband, at the time, who was in good health....she wanted to share her excitements, her thoughts and hear his as well...but it wasn't to be. She had wished it was a better relationship before he passed away, but he chose to be this way. Sad, ain't it? My cousin also confided that she had thought about getting everyone to go in a circle, in the living room, so I can read their lips but never did. I told her it wouldn't matter much because they will all be talking and I wouldn't be able to follow the conversations which is often the case.
Some people will say: Well, that's life! But we are here on earth to learn, to teach and be taught on every level, become more wiser and be more sensitive, not desensitize.
That's my thought for the day...there's really nothing I can do about this....sometimes we're stuck and learn to live with it which it didn't have to be but it does. This made me think of a poem I've read so many times and can relate to her experience so well. It's called "What Is It Like to be Deaf?" by Dianne Kinnee (Switsra).
"What is it like to be deaf?"
People have asked me.
Deaf? Oh, hmm... how do I explain that?
Simple: I can't hear.
No, wait... it is much more than that.
It is similar to a goldfish in a bowl,
Always observing things going on.
People talking at all times.
It is like a man on his own island
Isolation is no stranger to me.
Relatives say hi and bye
But I sit for 5 hours among them
Taking great pleasure at amusing babies
Or being amused by TV.
Reading books, resting, helping out with food.
Natural curiosity perks up
Upon seeing great laughter, crying, anger.
Inquiring only to meet with a "Never mind" or
"Oh, it's not important".
Getting a summarized statement
Of the whole day.
I'm supposed to smile to show my happiness.
Little do they know how truly miserable I am.
People are in control of language usage,
I am at loss and really uncomfortable!
Always feeling like an outsider
Among the hearing people,
Even though it was not their intention.
Always assuming that I am part of them
By my physical presence, not understanding
The importance of communication.
Facing the choice between Deaf Event weekend
or a family reunion.
Facing the choice between the family commitment
And Deaf friends.
I must make the choices constantly,
Any wonder why I choose Deaf friends???
I get such great pleasure at the Deaf clubs,
Before I realize it, it is already 2:00 am,
Whereas I anxiously look at the clock
Every few minutes at the Family Reunion.
With Deaf people, I feel so normal,
Our communication flows back and forth.
Catch up with little trivials, our daily life,
Our frustration in the bigger world,
Seeking the mutual understanding,
Contented smiles and laughter are musical.
So magical to me,
So attuned to each other's feelings.
True happiness is so important.
I feel more at home with Deaf people
Of various color, religion, short or tall.
Than I do among my own hearing relatives.
And you wonder why?
Our language is common.
We understand each other.
Being at loss of control
Of the environment that is communication,
People panic and retreat to avoid
Deaf people like the plague.
But Deaf people are still human beings
With dreams, desires, and needs
To belong, just like everyone else.
--Dianne Kinnee (Switras)
What's your thoughts on this? Want to share yours?
Have a great day and keep on smiling, we're still alive and kicking butts here and there! :-)